Mencius’ Refutation of Yang Zhu and Mozi and the Theoretical Implication of Confucian Benevolence and Love

in Frontiers of Philosophy in China
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Confucianism defined benevolence with “feelings” and “love.” “Feelings” in Confucianism can be mainly divided into three categories: feelings in general (seven kinds of feelings), love for one’s relatives, and compassion (Four Commencements). The seven kinds of feeling in which people respond to things can be summarized as “likes and dislikes.” The mind responds to things through feelings; based on the mind of benevolence and righteousness or feelings of compassion, the expression of feelings can conform to the principle of the mean and reach the integration of self and others, and of self and external things. The “relations between the seven kinds of feelings and the Four Commencements,” however, was not developed into a theoretical idea in Confucianism. After Confucius, the relationship between the universality of natural sympathies and the gradation of love for relatives gradually became an important subject in Confucian ideas of benevolence and love. By “refuting Yang Zhu and Mozi,” Mencius systematically expounded on this issue. Love had two ends: self-love and natural sympathies, between which existed the love for relatives. These two ends were not the two extremes of Yang’s self-interest and Mozi’s universal love. Love for relatives not only implied a gradation, but also contained universality and transcendence that came from self-love. Love for relatives, natural sympathies and self-love had a kind of tension and connectivity between two dynamic ends. The Confucian idea of benevolence and love hence demonstrated differences and interconnectivity. An accurate understanding of such “feelings” and “love” is important for us to grasp Confucian thoughts on benevolence and its realization.

Mencius’ Refutation of Yang Zhu and Mozi and the Theoretical Implication of Confucian Benevolence and Love

in Frontiers of Philosophy in China

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